Housing sales cool off in August

Strong July, however, suggests market continues to remain flat

When it comes to temperatures, August was hot.

Housing sales in Nanaimo? Not so much.

According to Vancouver Island Real Estate Board statistics, Nanaimo unit sales were down 38 per cent compared to August 2011, while average sale prices dropped seven per cent to $341,434 from August 2011’s average of $365,592.

Overall, housing sales activity across Vancouver Island declined 21 per cent in August 2012 compared to August 2011 in the board’s six zones, which also include Campbell River, Comox Valley, Parksville-Qualicum, Port Alberni-West Coast and Cowichan Valley.

But Jim Stewart, past president of VIREB, said one month, especially a summer month, does not make a trend.

“We’re certainly not concerned, and there aren’t a whole bunch of things making us go ‘oh, crap,'” said Stewart. “In August, everybody I know was either vacationing or going fishing. Lately I hear there aren’t many fish left. I chose to go early in the month so I did OK.”

In August 2011, there were 110 unit sales in Nanaimo. That dropped to 68 in August 2012 while last month saw 114 unit sales. Only the Cowichan Valley zone was on the positive side of the ledger, with 52 sales this August compared to 43 last August, a 21 per cent increase.

Stewart noted that July’s numbers balanced out the summer months for Realtors. In that month, average sale prices climbed two per cent to $360,000, while unit sales increased 36 per cent to 114 sales.

The balance suggests housing sales on Vancouver Island remain flat for the most part, according to Cameron Muir, chief economist with the B.C. Real Estate Association.

“No big changes in this trend are anticipated through to the end of the year,” he said. “However, interest rates continue to remain low and are anticipated through to stay that way for a while.”

With the province’s job situation steadily improving, Muir added that trend will ultimately lead to increased sales in the housing market.

Stewart said a flat market isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Inventory’s OK and there are some sales out there, and if you look at the big picture across the province we’re doing OK, we’re holding our own,” he said, adding there have been four sales in Nanaimo of $1 million or more so far this year and 22 throughout the VIREB zones. “That sounds pretty good to me. A 30-day timeline doesn’t tell the whole story.”

VIREB president Guy Bezeau agreed.

“There are certainly some spikes, such as last month’s sales figures, but for the most part we just keep chugging along.”